Most employers look for prior experience in investment banking, consulting or operating at an early stage company
I spent my first two years out of college at an investment bank doing M&A banking for Software companies. Recruiting for PE / Growth Equity takes place very early on during your investment banking 2-year analyst program, and it can be difficult to determine what you want to do that early. I personally loved working with companies and loved software, so I wanted to move to a fund where I would be able to advise after a transaction. I found growth equity to be more compelling than PE, given you are able to do more building and less financial engineering. I joined the fund after 2 years as an investment banking analyst.
Your primary responsibilities are split between sourcing new investment opportunities, evaluating/executing investments, and managing the performance of your portfolio companies. The split between these three tasks varies by level of seniority and by fund approach.
Sourcing: Activities range from reaching out to new/interesting companies, developing relationships with mgmt. Teams over time, attending industry conferences/banker conferences, cold calls to new businesses, and catching up with companies you have tracked for years. The goal of this activity is to find an exciting investment opportunity to fit your specific investment thesis. Growth equity is traditionally thought of as a later stage investment than Venture Capital, but still at a time when the company is experiencing rapid growth. We think of this as finding companies with product-market fit but still have a fair amount of execution risk before they become a mature technology business. There are some businesses that you will build a relationship with for 3 years before seeing a deal and others that respond to your initial outreach email with an investment opportunity that fits. This is a fun and creative aspect of the job.
Execution: Once you find an opportunity that fits your thesis, you, along with a deal team of 3 - 6 investors, evaluate the opportunity. This involves completing customer diligence, business diligence, financial modeling/diligence, market / competitive analysis, legal diligence, and is typically coupled with managing a handful of consultants. This gets at your investment acumen, and as you become more senior, your compensation becomes tied to the performance of your investments. Many funds will let go or not promote investors with a below average track record.
Portfolio Mgmt.: This largely includes board meetings (often you will take a board seat or function as a board observer post investment), budgeting, analysis, strategic planning, and recruiting C-level executives. This phase continues until you exit the investment.
A typical week can range from 70 - 100 hours depending on your workload (e.g., periods of heavy execution include long hours as you work to get a transaction across the line). The fun aspect of this job is no two days are the same, and you are often juggling all three responsibilities at the same time that keeps the work interesting and exciting.
One of my favorite aspects of the job is learning from the sourcing aspect. There is no better way to learn a sub segment of an industry than by speaking with the CEOs of every company that competes in that market. I find this not only helps you develop a stronger investment acumen but also enables you to create more value post investment.
Additionally, you are able to explore areas that interest you (depending on the firm you work for). For example, I had a bit of an obsession with Construction Software in 2016 and was able to dig deep into this space and identify the best players, which led to several investments from our team.
Lastly, you will learn and develop quickly. Your days range from speaking with successful CEOs, attending board meetings, presenting to the investment committee, and speaking to potential LPs (the investors that provide your fund capital). This forces you to think strategically, stay organized, and learn how to articulate your point of view to very smart people. Learning from the other investors and CEOs is the biggest advantage of this job, in my opinion.
Lunch and Dinner provided, frequent work-related travel, and well stocked fridge / snacks
As with most careers in finance, this can be demanding. You are investing millions of other people's money (and your own), so no rock can be unturned. Especially during the execution time period (for both Junior and Senior folks), this means very long hours, late nights and stress. However, I often find this rewarding after the fact.
Additionally, there are always firm politics based on the structure of the fund. This can preclude you from looking at certain assets, create a challenging environment to get investment opportunities approved internally, and create a toxic culture, at times. This varies heavily from fund to fund and is an important thing to diligence when evaluating a career in growth equity ( I recommend speaking to a number of folks at the fund at the level you are applying for).